Sunday Dinner with Tracey J Lyons

Feb 19, 2023 | Sunday Dinner

For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Tracey J Lyons. Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author, Tracey lives with her husband in upstate New York, where she pens sweet romance novels that bring love and faith home. She’s here today to talk about her novel A Surprise for Abigail.

Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!

Without further ado, please tell us interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.

I’ve finally convinced my husband to let me build a three-season artist/writer’s studio in our backyard. This will be a basic structure with no water and no electricity. I want to use all the furniture and odds and ends of antiques we have stored in our garage to decorate the space.

Can you tell us about your latest novel?

A Surprise for Abigail is book 1 in the bestselling Women of Surprise series.

Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author, Tracey J Lyons tells a heart-warming story of suspense and love, in A Surprise for Abigail, book one in the popular Women of Surprise series.

A jaded drifter on the run. A young woman with a broken heart. Can these two strangers find what they are looking for in a quirky small-town called Surprise?

Cole Stanton was a man on the move. On his own since the death of his family, he’s drifted from town to town, shielding his heart from attachment to anything or anyone. Abigail Monroe had been busy planning her wedding until the day she was jilted by her intended. Broken-hearted with her future hopes dashed, Abigail vows to never fall in love again. Desperate to get away from the embarrassment of the breakup, she escapes to the town of Surprise to stay with her sick Aunt Margaret. However, when Abigail arrives, she finds that her aunt has an unorthodox request of her; become the town’s first woman sheriff! When Abigail agrees, her life is soon turned upside down. Her first arrest is none other than Cole Stanton. After his arrest, it becomes clear to Abigail that Mr. Stanton could be much more than what he seems. He may very well be a wanted man…wanted by the law, and by her.

The newest release in audio format is narrated by Kimberly Austin.

Why did you choose to write a story set in Surprise, NY?

I grew up driving through the town of Surprise on the way to my grandmother’s house in Westerlo, NY.  When I began my writing career, I knew that I wanted to set my books in New York State, where I live. The idea for this series popped into my head, and I decided to base the three books, very loosely on my two sisters and their personalities. Although, in a Surprise for Abigail, I suppose Abigail is closest to my personality traits. I loved the name of the town and thought why not set this sweet western type series there. I pitched the series to my then editor as “Little House on the Prairie meets Mayberry.”

I understand Surprise is an actual place. Can you tell us more about it?

Surprise is a quaint town set in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. It’s so small if you blink on the way through you’ve missed it! The current population is around 500 people! The post office was established with the name Surprise in 1889 and continued operation until 1988.

Have you lived in or visited Surprise? What research was required to set a book there in the mid-1800s?

I have never lived in Surprise. Since I was familiar with the landscape of the area, the visual setting was really simple. I used the Catskill Mountains as the backdrop for the setting. As far as facts pertaining to that time period, I have a ton of favorite research books that I used. I also purchased a book about the history of Green County, where this town is located, so I could add in tidbits of local historical information.

Can you tell us more about the legend of Rip Van Winkle, and how it relates to your story?

I grew up in the shadow of the legend of Rip Van Winkle. I think I first heard the story as told to me by my grandfather. The story goes that Rip was wandering in the woods, to take a break from his nagging wife, and came upon some mysterious Dutchmen, drank their liquor, and fell asleep under a tree for twenty years.  If you look at the skyline, outline of the Catskill mountains you can see the image of Rip laying down! From the top of his head to his booted feet and his long beard are rumored to be seen in the peaks and valleys formed by the mountains. The legend came from a short story written by Washington Irving in 1819. You can read more here.

Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?

I would say it was easy to find information for this book. And this original book was written at the early stages of the internet. I have acquired a fairly decent research library in my office.  I used The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800’s and Costume in Design for researching the lifestyle and period dress.

My favorite resource is still my home library. I know that looking something up on the Google is easy. But I really enjoy flipping through pages. And my favorite resource is actually the Flip Dictionary. I love to use it to find different words. It’s like a glorified Thesaurus.

What is one piece of your research that you could not include in the book, but wish readers could know?

The book was originally written for a library audience, so I had to be careful with how I worked in the saloon angle. I actually thought all references to the saloon and drinking would be cut from the manuscript. So….I guess I am answering this question backwards! LOL! I was more intrigued by what was left in the book, rather than taken out!

Do you have another book in the works?

Yes, the next two books in the Women of Surprise series, Lydia’s Passion and Making Over Maggie, are set to launch in audio format in the coming months.

Lydia’s Passion picks up where A Surprise for Abigail leaves off. Lydia Monroe is a cousin to Abigail and comes to the town of Surprise to fill in as the school teacher. This state of affairs doesn’t sit well with one of the schoolboard members, Alexander Judson. The widower of two school-aged children, he isn’t happy with Lydia’s free-spirited ways of teaching. Lydia thinks he’s stubborn and a bit too uptight for her liking. But a near tragic accident, may just change all of that.

In Making Over Maggie we find Maggie Monroe struggling to find her footing as the manager of the new dance hall. She’s pitted against one flamboyant man who goes by the name of Samuel Clay. Can a man with a secret past and a strait-laced woman find love in the town of Surprise? These audio books are narrated by Kimberley Austin.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?

I’ve fallen in love with the Women of Surprise series all over again. My narrator does a fabulous job of bringing all of the characters to life! These books are available in print and ebook and in the newly formatted audio version. They have a new look, with vibrant new covers. Don’t be “surprised” if you see flower covers on the print and ebook version and lovely women with the town as the backdrop depicted on the audio versions. They contain the same exact story as it was originally written by me!


The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Tracey, thank you for joining us today!

If readers would like to purchase a copy of A Surprise for Abigail where might they be able to do so?

You can find it on audio on Apple and Chirp. In print and ebook, you can find it on Amazon.

If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?

Follow me on Goodreads, BookBub, or Facebook. Learn about me at traceyjlyons.com. And sign up for my newsletter here.

Over Sunday Dinner next week historical fiction author Anne Perreault will join us. See you then!